Syria and the Left: A Call to Arms

As the world’s imperial powers unify against Syrians, we offer suggestions for how those in the West can demonstrate solidarity with the besieged

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by Charles Davis, Loubna Mrie, and Kareem Chehayeb

THE last year has been one of the worst in history for Syrians, whose country continues to be torn apart by dictatorship, the Islamic State, various rebel groups, and both U.S. and Russian imperialism. As the regime has solidified its grip on Aleppo–one of the last urban strongholds of opposition forces–the Islamic State continues to be a significant force in the country, as shown by its recapture of the ancient town of Palmyra.

The rise of Donald Trump and his desire to openly work alongside Russia and the Syrian regime as part of an escalated war on terror demands change with respect to how the Western left engages the issue of Syria. Some have spent years downplaying or even openly denying the well-documented suffering of Syrians, dismissing such reports as part of a ploy by Clintonites and liberal interventionists seeking to sell the world a no-fly zone that hasn’t come. The presidential election has all but settled this policy debate; moving forward, the left now needs to figure out how it can organize on behalf of those whom the world has united against. Rehashing the past while displaced Syrians are bombed and deported would be a historical dereliction.

Refugees need to be supported wherever they are, and imperial designs for the partition of their homeland–as well as the normalization of a hereditary regime that has killed hundreds of thousands–must be opposed. Meaningful solidarity could take a number of forms that the global left should pursue immediately, lest it continues to fail Syrians as it has for the last half decade.

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Images, Ethics, Action: Online Video, Human Rights and Civic Activism in Syria

Thomas Keenan moderates a discussion with our friends, the great Yassin al Haj Saleh and Eliot Higgins (Brown Moses), on the situation in Syria.

We live in a world where images of violence and atrocity regularly flow from battlefields and streets in conflict, and circulate with increasing velocity. Whether they are intended to terrorize, shock, expose wrongdoing, “raise awareness,” or simply show what’s happening — and whether they are made by journalists, fighters, activists, citizens, or even satellites and surveillance cameras — they appear before us and ask us to respond. They raise not only political questions, but ethical ones as well. They are ultimately addressed to public opinion, and their fate is uncertain. Do they end in action, engagement, avoidance, prejudice, empathy, revulsion, memory or oblivion?

This discussion focused on images from the war in Syria, and explored a range of things to do with them.

Solidarity is not a Crime: Statement from the Minnesota Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (Minnesota CISPOS)

As members of an organization committed to peace and justice, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS), it was disheartening for us to see an article in Huffington Post that falsely alleges that we are working “in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.” Coleen Rowley and Margaret Sarfehjooy’s article “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars” does not provide insightful analysis and is constructed on unfounded claims.

The article is fallout from the widespread controversy in the peace movement over how to respond to the brutal war in Syria.

Many anti-war pundits and activists have bought into U.S. propaganda that the U.S. is actively supporting the Syrian rebels to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. They point to the 1997 Project for a New American Century plan for regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. They believed Hillary Clinton in 2012 when she said the Assad regime must go and that the international community stands with the Syrian people.  In fact…the U.S. has given very little training, small weapons, and funds to very few rebel groups.  Congress recently dropped $300 million for the Syrian rebels from the defense bill, almost completely cutting what the Syrian opposition already saw as paltry support from the U.S.  On the other hand, the CIA has long had a working relationship with Assad, sending him numerous terrorist suspects to torture as part of their rendition program. Assad has provided Israel with a secure border.

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A visit from Oz

Along with a Youtube video [see below], the following short report appeared on the Ha’aretz website today:

Israel’s new immigration police has joined security forces in cracking down on foreign activists residing in the Palestinian West Bank, Haaretz has learned.

The Oz Unit participated last week in the attempted arrest of a number of activists in the West Bank town of Bil’in, and also in the raid that nabbed leading Palestinian militants Mohammed Hatib that same night. Two weeks ago, the unit took part in the arrest of a Czech activist in Ramallah…

An Israel Defense Forces officer can be seen ordering the activists to obey the unit’s instructions, explaining that immigration officials have every right to make such requests. The same officer then urges the immigration official to search for some default or problem in the detainee’s documents,

The IDF soldiers can later been seen forcefully detaining a few of the activists. When asked why the arrest was being carried out, the soldier said that the immigration official would explain everything.

So for some background on the ‘Oz’ unit, here are some links:

Established by a 2008 cabinet decision, the task force, which goes by the Hebrew name “Oz” (courage), is the enforcement body of the Population Authority that comes under the aegis of the Interior Ministry, and replaced the immigration police. The unit has 200 inspectors, who have policing powers only with regard to foreigners.

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Lessons for the Young Activist – BDS Do’s and Don’ts

I’m very satisfied that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement conducts itself with the utmost ethical consistency and respect to international law (if it didn’t, I wouldn’t advocate it). It’s true that it’s following the South African model, but at the same time it’s setting an example of its own. As a young activist, it’s a pleasure learning from its outspoken leaders. In my involvement in the movement, every step presents us with an ethical challenge. Avoiding the pitfall of a sweeping, uncommunicative action, the Global BDS movement, led by the Palestinian people, is employing guidelines of a “smart boycott”, differentiating institutions from individuals and Zionists from Jews. It’s never simple and dedicated research and much debate goes into every initiative. As a student of the boycott tactic, it’s just as important for me to learn what not to do, and examples are ample.

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